written by Marybeth Mitcham
According to my family, watching movies with me is not at all fun. The reasons for this are not what you might expect. I do not hold a running commentary during movies, do not usually ask questions, do not sit where I block the screen, and do not even choose stinky snacks for family movie time.
What I do apparently is far more annoying than any of those examples.
I refuse to watch any movie, unless I first know the entire plot.
I need to know that there will be a happy ending. I need to know if people will be hurt, when they will be hurt, and how they will be hurt. I need to know if there are happy plot twists or if there are not-so-happy plot twists. I need to know if there will be any heart-wrenching moments.
I want to know these things so that I can choose to either skip bad scenes, have tissues ready for potential moments of tears, or if I should avoid watching the movie entirely.
I do this to protect myself from vicariously experiencing bad things that happen to others onscreen, and from being unprepared to observe anything unpleasant.
It would be nice if life offered us the same control that I insist on maintaining when it comes to my screen time; if we could know what was going to happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen. If we could know that it will turn out okay. If we could be granted the opportunity to take a bracing breath before devastating circumstances wrest that very breath from our bodies. If we could pace out our moments of lived joy, hoarding them in the expectation of knowing that they will be sparse in the days ahead.
Unfortunately, life does not offer us the same options that movie spoilers do. As all of us are aware, we have no control over many of the things that happen to us.
We cannot know the future, and do not have the option of fast-forwarding through seasons of hurt or hardship. We are thrust from one experience, one season, one life stage to another, without any warnings of what is to come.
We might think that we know what to expect, but in reality, no planning ahead or expectations on our part will help.
We can either choose to rely on God, knowing that He has promised to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), or we can rely on our own strengths and abilities, and in doing so, flounder mightily; kind of like Peter did while attempting to walk on water to meet Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33).
Peter’s heart was in the right place, wanting to be with his Lord, and having enough faith to be willing to jump out of a boat during a storm, no less, and head toward Jesus. But, while he was walking toward Jesus, Peter’s fear of the unknowable future – his fright over what could potentially happen to him – caused his focus to shift. Rather than keeping his eyes on the One who did know the future, and who has had perfect control over all that has ever happened, is happening, and ever will happen, Peter instead noticed the storm. And in noticing the storm, his fear increased, until fear, and not Jesus, was the focus of his attention. And when that happened, he immediately began to sink, his fear quickly becoming his reality. However, the story does not end there. When Peter cried out, asking Jesus to save him, Jesus did. Immediately. And then Jesus stopped the storm, calming the fears of all of His disciples. And did Peter receive a harsh reprimand for failing to keep his eyes on Jesus? No. Jesus instead gently remonstrated Peter for doubting.
Even though that was the end of that part of the story, it was not the end of the story for Peter. Little did he know at that time that in a short while, a change was coming that was so cataclysmic that it would change not only his world, but the entire world, for the rest of time. I wonder if, while he was hiding with the other disciples in the dark during the despair-laden days between the crucifixion and the resurrection, if Peter remembered Jesus’ gentle words to him, asking why he doubted. I wonder if the miraculous rescue, and the entire experience of being able to walk on the water with his Lord and Savior even entered his mind as he and the disciples hid, certain that they had placed their hopes and futures on the wrong man. Or, if he was reminded of that incident when Christ appeared to the disciples in His resurrected body, yet again fulfilling His promise that He would always be with His followers, and that their needs would always be provided for. I wonder if Peter realized at that moment, that he did not need to fear seasons of change, but that, if he kept his eyes on his savior, he would stay safe.
I have been clinging to the promises that are soaked into the very fabric of this story, as I, like all of you, walk through yet a season of uncertainty and constant change. Considering my movie watching preferences, it is no surprise that I also do not like to be unsure of my future, and of each day will bring.
I like to have everything planned out, to know exactly what I can expect, and to be forewarned of hardships so that I can mentally and emotionally prepare for them. But, just as Peter could not have known with certainty that a storm was coming, I, too, am unable to know what hardships or changes in my life lies ahead, or what shape each day will take.
When those hardships or changes do come – and they will, whether I want them to or not – I can either respond by becoming overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty, consumed with the endless possibilities of what could be, or, I can choose to set my eyes on Jesus, choosing to trust Him. And in doing so, putting my future in His hands, knowing that in Him, my future is secure.